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Abigail Shaw

Updated: Sep 13


The Ambulance


I’m not that skeleton they found.

I’m not the pile of naked branches

in which children have built their second homes.

I wasn’t alive for the Holocaust so

I’m not a sallow bar of soap. I don’t

have the waxy skin of a marionette.

I’m not the one holding Dad’s hand,

I don’t have clasped white knuckles.

I’m not stealing ten pounds from

your dresser—or fifty, or a hundred.

I’m not still doing that.

I didn’t call Mum a cunt the first Christmas

she locked me out. I’m not trapped

in the reflection of a glistening knife’s-edge.

This isn’t the fifth time.

I haven’t been wading in water; I’m no

untapped vein. The morning, it breaks.

I’m not walking into the light to leave,

I don’t want to be free-floating, caught

in God’s hands or a tractor beam.

In my bed, I wake up screaming:

I want my life; I want my life.


A Minute More


A brownie-camp sun suggests

nostalgia can be felt in the weather,

or in the hand, outstretched and motoring

through velociraptor grass. In the

biscuit tin that hides the pins to sew the sash.

In pigtails or bunkbeds or walking

two by two through churchyards,

little mites and midges, up to their knees

in a stream. First summers of heat and grass,


the sweet smell of cow parsley, or was it hemlock

in the hedgerows. Or perhaps it can be found in the sound

of frozen peas in a metal pan. In a caravan evening,

the bruised dusk over Ullswater. Or under

a great steel bridge in the claws of a crayfish,

in the condensation collected on luminous cagoules.

It can be found in chin-tucked looks down to Mum

tying shoes. The heather-struck hills, the

beckoned fingers of furled ferns,


hidden away in senescent wood all fat and bowing

from the hot rain. A whippersnapper candle

suggests it can be felt in the fumbled light

gathered in the hearth. Or in the fermented

wet soil down the garden path, the pique of the

steady drip, an uncharismatic roof. It can be found

in the primordial slime of my racing snails,

the slippery oafs, their chase laid.

Alone in the low light, I was squinting and sheathed

in a sleeping bag, cheering them on.


Before


Once, we were in the devil’s smithy

no more a hospital than ground is sky.

Groaned around the stench of a lanced boil,

sweated dark cuts by candlelight.


Trusted gold touch piece, clutched for

healing. Leeched melancholy, drained

phlegm. Clenched jaw around a wooden

spoon screaming, the heavy pant of saw.


The noise of it all, wailed confessions to Mary,

bewitched leg flecked with rhubarb powder,

juniper water and mustard oil. Vain faith placed

in vinegar-soaked cloth, lain down heavy


with another lead cross. But here is our divine future:

with a surgeon’s hands inside her head a woman will

continue to sing. Gratitude is buried with all

your dead; she will not feel a thing.


The Drink


the drink that i was handed was an amaretto coke

you can pop a balloon with just a little poke

i left my hometown to make myself some friends

you can kill a flower just by cutting off the stem


he serves me at the checkout, he’s helped me change a tire

have you ever seen a fox that’s been caught in chicken wire?

the screaming of its struggle as summer bubbles him to soup

wire cutter pity and he’ll thank you in the coop


the drink that i was handed was the dirty blood of christ

and what i had between my legs was girlish sacrifice

i never got to realise what was special about sex

before i became half part of the half things that you left


the drink that i was handed was a glass of dry white wine

the drink that i was handed was tequila sans the lime

the drink that i was handed was the skeletal remains of

who took the drink before me all the girls without a


name. the drink that i was handed was a bowl of lukewarm spit

and rape me by nirvana was playing in 8-bit

skin as white as milk, skin so quick to spoil

I am curdled, I am creamy, I am split, as slick as oil


the drink that i was handed was a virgin white russian

you can bruise a peach with the sound of percussion

you can stain a bed only with a drop of ink

you can waste a woman by handing her a drink.


The Truth is Out There


Me and Fox Mulder are in a cahoots

crisis. With me, in bits, dismissed

from the spacecraft. And him,

on the TV, adjusting the contrast.


No, I wasn’t around for those cattle

mutilations. My post pile, sour milk,

and dead fish need addressing. I brush

my teeth thrice for each hour I find missing.

Mulder insists I’m a victim, my remote

mutes his screams, with ease, while

I’m tracing crop circles in the dust on

the screen. Do you think that I’m spooky?

I see me as lucky! Though, of course,


very concerned with the disappearance of

Scully. Gone in a flush—my meds

just never agreed with the feds

or the aliens or the talking TV.


So, now we see it, hovered on the horizon

there’s a van parked outside

offering ‘Flooring By Ivan’

but after the sighting


I’m not frightened,

I don’t panic; both Mulder and I

evaporate into static.




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